Generation 40s – 四十世代

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Why all the losers in Hong Kong’s chief executive race deserve our vote … of thanks

CommentInsight & Opinion
2017-03-27
Alice Wu says the losing candidates showed the way for the incoming chief executive, from raising critical questions on ‘one country, two systems’ to highlighting the importance of heeding public sentiment

For all who stepped up to the plate to contend for the office of Hong Kong chief executive: thank you for making it a contested, though pre-determined, race.

Not only did some of them brush aside the great disincentive of being made predestined losers, they stuck to it to the end.

Whatever our politics, they are to be commended for putting themselves on the line, and for the personal sacrifices they made to get, or at least try to get, their names on the ballot.

Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee, the only aspiring contender out of the lot to have gone through democratic elections, has done this twice. True to her “comeback girl” persona, twice she put herself out there and twice she was squeezed out, forced to drop out of the race because she was not “able” to get the 150 nominations needed. She was not “able” to, mind, not because she should never have tried, or because there weren’t enough nominations to go around. She was made unable to.

She was not the odd woman out, especially since this time it was basically a contest of ex-civil servants. The shameful way the powers that be treated her, twice over now, are the darkest moments of this city’s chief executive race.

Beijing may see bullying Ip out of the race as serving a greater purpose, but it has made Ip the reluctant poster girl for its enemies, opposed to the idea of a Beijing-controlled nomination committee in any talks about political reform.

Kudos to Woo Kwok-hing for getting the ball rolling for this election by being the first to officially throw his hat into the ring – a breath of fresh air as we suffocated under the “wait and see” political atmosphere. He was the first to raise the obvious question to other rumoured contenders: “What are you waiting for?” As someone who was never considered a serious contender, the retired judge surely posed the most serious question of this race and perhaps the city’s ultimate political question. The city was waiting for Beijing to make up its mind about who to back. Other contenders were playing green light/red light with Beijing as the clock ticked. As an “outsider”, Woo certainly shook things up and pushed everyone’s buttons, but he went one better.

His question points to the source of this city’s political angst and frustrations. It explains why political helplessness floods Hong Kong’s political consciousness.

Watching those wishing to run for the city’s most powerful post wait for Beijing’s explicit blessings, or at least non-objection, made the promise of a “high degree of autonomy” a farcical delusion.

Political powerlessness permeates our air. Woo worked hard to secure nominations and, while this system means he never stood a chance of winning, he has possibly proposed the way out of political fatalism. And it would be wise for the newly elected chief executive to take heed.

Unless Hong Kong passes a law that criminalises the very thing – interference by mainland authorities – that Article 22 of our Basic Law prohibits, then all talk of upholding and protecting the “one country, two systems” principle is truly just that, empty talk.

As the race entered its final weeks, disturbing and ridiculous rumours, such as cast ballots would undergo fingerprint analysis, made their rounds in political circles. One could speculate about the source of these rumours, but all that would yield are just more conspiracy theories. The fact that these rumours needed refuting speaks of how “believable” they are. These rumours would not have survived if not for the avalanche of reports of the blatant and excessive lobbying for one candidate by those north of the Shenzhen River.

They were an affront to “one country, two systems” – and there will be repercussions that will challenge the very person those concerted efforts were supposed to benefit. The challenges of governance will be ever more pronounced. These politically stifling efforts will only exacerbate feelings of political powerlessness and feed the “political oppression” narrative the localists swear by.

Hats off to John Tsang Chun-wah for being a good sport, playing the role of a good sparring partner for a former colleague. The most appealing candidate for the public ran a campaign with the greatest popular appeal. Marked out as the populist candidate, Tsang proved his critics wrong. His cardinal sin wasn’t his supposed “populism”. It was getting the support of pan-democrats. But to mend the social and political rifts, as all candidates pledged to do, crossing the political aisle is a necessity. Tsang put restarting the political reform process front and centre of his platform not because he is a dangerous populist, but because he is a realist. The crises of legitimacy that administrations past have had to struggle with will only grow more disabling, and the political environment more volatile, if politics is swept under the rug. And without political legitimacy, the mission of improving livelihoods and developing the economy will continue to face political headwinds.

The most valuable outcome of a democratic contested race is that it gives the winner the chance to pay more attention to what the voters are thinking and really want.

John Tsang with a young supporter during his election campaign on March 16. Photo: AP

While what we had was a far cry from a democratic or truly contested race, Tsang perhaps offered the winning candidate a way into the hearts and minds of the public. Under the current system and political environment, Tsang’s tactic would never have won him the seat. But his tactic is exactly what the chief executive-elect would need when in office, in the conduct of which public sentiment plays a crucial role.

And finally, congratulations to the newly elected chief executive of Hong Kong. You have a very tall order to fill. Mao Zedong (毛澤東) may have considered you to be among those who “hold up half the sky,” but Li Ka-shing expects you to be nothing short of a Chinese mythical goddess tasked with the job to “mend the heavens”.

It is my sincere wish that you remain tough in the face of future storms, as you have demonstrated to have been more than capable of doing in the past.

Surely there will be plenty of opportunities to prove your critics wrong, but the work to mend the divided community – as you have pledged – begins right now.

Alice Wu is a political consultant and a former associate director of the Asia Pacific Media Network at UCLA


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Let’s face it: Hong Kong will never fix its illegal parking problem

South China Morning Post
CommentInsight & Opinion
2017-03-24

Yonden Lhatoo shares readers’ sense of despair and disgust over the city’s total inability to bite the bullet and do what it really takes to curb illegal parking

I watched a sad little circus in our Legislative Council this week. Stopping short of calling the performers a bunch of bozos, I would say they might as well have put on clown costumes and make-up to complete the picture.

Lawmakers from across the political spectrum stymied the government’s long-overdue proposal to raise penalties for illegal parking by 50 per cent from next June.

It wasn’t enough for them that this is already a ridiculously benign effort to crack down on a problem that is a scourge of Hong Kong when it comes to quality of life. The plan is to raise penalties for different kinds of parking offences from HK$320 and HK$450 to HK$480 and HK$680. The amount will be commensurate with the severity of the offence, with drivers who pick up or drop off passengers in a restricted zone, for example, paying the stiffest fine.

This city hasn’t toughened its illegal parking penalties since 1994. For added context, the fine for littering is HK$1,500, and it’s a draconian HK$2,000 for jaywalking. Go figure.

In a jaw-dropping, twilight-zone moment, someone even called for fines to be lowered

Anyway, back in the big top, the argument presented by our elected representatives in favour of maintaining this ludicrous status quo was that the main reason for the problem was car ownership increasing faster than the growth of parking spaces. In a jaw-dropping, twilight-zone moment, someone even called for fines to be lowered. Yep, that ought to do it, Einstein.

Some problems in Hong Kong are just unfixable. This isn’t one of them. But it will never be fixed because of vested interests and a total lack of guts or will on the part of those in a position to do something about it.

Instead of my own commentary this time, let me quote our readers to break it down for you.

“90 per cent of Hong Kong residents don’t have cars. They are the sane ones – or the poor ones. Those with cars should have a fine of several thousand dollars for illegal parking. The fine could be reduced for delivery vehicles.

“HK$680 is what these people pay for dessert. Proportional fines would work best; with Inland Revenue already having access to your tax returns, it shouldn’t be difficult to coordinate with the police/courts over fines. They could even be automatically stacked up on top of your tax next year.”

“Make it easier for police and traffic wardens to issue tickets; give them an app with GPS and they can photo the offender, issue ticket by email. At the moment they have to handwrite in triplicate, and most appear too lazy to do so!”

If affluent Hongkongers are fearless in the face of fines, why not simply start deducting points from their driving licences? The threat of losing their right to drive ought to make these incorrigibles toe the line. Or start a vigorous culture of towing away offending vehicles to teach them a lesson.

It’s so simple, but try running that past our feeble-minded politicians and weak-willed transport authorities. And don’t forget that the police may be part of the problem, with their half-hearted enforcement.

“Traffic police simply ask the drivers to move on and all they do is drive around the block and park back in the same place as the police officers have simply walked on.”

“An offence is 24/7, 365! Not a one-week advertised crackdown. That must be the dumbest law enforcement tactic. No wonder drivers constantly break the law.”

Conclusion: it’s hopeless. I’ll just leave you with this little gem seen online that would sum up the attitude of so many Hong Kong drivers: “Somebody actually complimented me on my driving today. They left a note on my windscreen which said, ‘Parking Fine’. That was nice …”

Yonden Lhatoo is a senior editor at the Post


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Hong Kong’s ailing film industry can play a leading role in a hi-tech economy

South China Morning Post
CommentInsight & Opinion
2017-03-24

Albert Cheng says the next chief executive should focus on transforming the city into a world leader in virtual reality and a post-production hub, to boost the economy

After three weeks of electioneering to be Hong Kong’s chief executive, Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor has a comfortable lead ahead of her two opponents in terms of support from the small circle of 1,194 electors – despite being unpopular among ordinary Hongkongers. There is little doubt the former chief secretary will emerge as the winner on Sunday.

However, it would be difficult for her to lead a government when her credibility is low. She can secure enough votes to win, but not the hearts and minds of the people.

If elected, the first thing Lam must do is restore people’s trust. For this, she should focus her attention on one vital subject: the Hong Kong economy. I would advise her to steer public attention back to how to keep the city prosperous. How Hong Kong can ride the global wave of innovation and technology should feature prominently in her first 100 days.

When it comes to innovation and technology, people often think of fintech, start-ups, and research and development. They overlook one important opportunity here: the film industry. In her manifesto, Lam states that in the face of competition, the city “should continue to nurture talents in the film industry by providing training to those involved in film production and post-production, and provide assistance in the further development of the industry”.

This is probably one of the very few issues where I agree with her. The government should invest in the future of Hong Kong by transforming this creative and energetic city into a post-production hub and world leader in virtual reality technology.

Hong Kong has nurtured a critical mass of talent in the film industry over the years. It is a matter of how our leader can unleash this vast potential.

The policy so far has been to invest a relatively small amount of taxpayers’ money to help Hong Kong’s technology firms leap forward. Yet, the logic of a matching fund in collaboration with venture capitalists defies common sense. Once they spot a good movie script, opportunistic investors would rather pocket all the profits, rather than sharing it with the government.

Instead of fumbling around trying to pick winners, Secretary for Innovation and Technology Nicholas Yang Wei-hsiung’s might be better to focus on assisting Hong Kong firms that are already on the right track to climb to the next level.

A scene from the 1987 movie An Autumn’s Tale. starring Chow Yun-fat and Cherie Chung. Hong Kong filmmakers used to produce up to 200 movies a year in the 1980s and 1990s, when the industry was hailed as a pillar of the local economy. Photo: Handout

Hong Kong filmmakers used to produce up to 200 movies a year in the 1980s and 1990s, when the industry was hailed as a pillar of the local economy. However, as its counterparts in Taiwan and the mainland continue to mature, Hong Kong’s creative industry has gone downhill. Virtual reality technology could be the key to help the city turn the tide.

Despite the lack of government support, local entrepreneurs have seized some of the opportunities. Actor Nicholas Tse Ting-fung is a shining example. He launched Post Production Office in 2003 to focus on post-production work for commercials and movies. He branched out in Shanghai and Beijing before selling 60 per cent of the firm to a listed company. However, its Hong Kong operations had to fold mainly because of runaway rentals and high labour costs. The is one of the many budding businesses which ended up moving away from Hong Kong.

The company has now been taken over by Digital Domain, which is chaired by Taiwanese businessman Peter Chou. It is listed on the Hong Kong stock exchange and can be promoted as a success story of our own. Digital Domain is based in the US, with its production studio located in Vancouver. Its special effects expertise is behind many Hollywood blockbusters, including Iron Man 3 and Transformers, to name but two. Many have asked, why Canada? Why not America? Or China? In fact, the answer lies in the local government’s aggressive incentives for investors.

By contrast, the Hong Kong government has been sitting on its hands. The flat, uninspiring ideas in the policy addresses every year are devoid of imagination. The next chief executive must take prompt action. When a good plan is not implemented, it remains at best an idea. Hong Kong can ill afford to let good ideas slip away.

Albert Cheng King-hon is a political commentator.


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唯才是用無界限

信報財經新聞
銘想英國
2017-03-04

陳思銘

上星期,我把得到英國傑出校友獎的榮譽,分予我的母校華威大學及一直在推動英國升學路上與我並肩的隊友。特別是後者,如果沒有他們向來的支持推動,也沒有今日的陳思銘。

不少人都留意到,我的團隊很年輕,作為升學中心,我的辦公室有時確實很有青春校園feel。曾經有些人為此戥我擔心,因為覺得時下這些後生仔女很惡搞。近年經常性聽到僱主詬病年輕一代特別是九十後的新聞,甚至聽聞本地有些企業見九十後如見鬼,最終導致公司人手不足而結業。

作為老闆,我必須承認我的眼睛有孽障:我看不到我隊友的年齡組別,我看到的只是他們的表現。我真心相信,工作上只有夠不夠好,沒有夠不夠後生或夠不夠老。我的團隊很有活力、很有諗頭、很有拚勁、很有責任心,不是因為他們來自幾多十後,而是因為他們每一個本身都是有活力、有諗頭、有拚勁、有責任心的人。我深信唯才是用的道理,拒絕將「年長」等同有責任感,或是在「年輕」和創意中間畫上等號。經驗告訴我,不論是六十後、七十後、八十後、九十後,都會有膊頭可付託重責的人,也會有想像力天馬行空轉數奇快的人。身為僱主,我致力聘用叻人來協助我,而叻人是每個年代皆有的產物。純粹以出生年代來區分個人的質素,實在是太兒戲了。

尊重是靠能力賺回來

以前在英國讀寄宿學校,每年暑假返港,例必有姨媽姑姐問同一問題:「你啲鬼仔同學有無因為你係中國人蝦你呀?」其實寄宿學校是社會的縮影,鬼仔同學不一定全是橫行無忌的技安(胖虎),亞洲同學也非全是被欺壓的大雄。寄宿生活很快教會我,每個地方、民族、階級都會有人是惡霸,有人會炫富,同時亦會有善良的人、正直的人。在學校如果有人看你不順眼而蝦你,多是因為你不夠融入、或態度囂張、或畏首畏尾。相反,如果一個人舉止磊落大方,自會贏得老師、同學的尊重,跟你的膚色無關。

講到尾,我其實想講的是,讀書也好,工作也好,尊重是要靠能力表現品格賺回來的,並不與閣下的性別、年齡、膚色、種族、星座等掛鈎。


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Hong Kong taxi drivers should welcome a premium service that will meet consumer demand

South China Morning Post
CommentInsight & Opinion
2017-03-23

Anthony Cheung believes the 600 new franchised cabs will meet people’s demand for higher-quality rides. Hong Kong can well accommodate two types of service, and the taxi trade should not see change as a threat

 

Responses from the public and taxi trade to the Hong Kong government’s latest proposal on franchised taxis seem to be quite diverse. The public generally welcomes the new choice and calls for its early introduction, whereas some members of the taxi trade are worried about the impact of the new service on existing taxis.

The government has been listening to views in the community. We first mooted the idea of a premium taxi service in November 2015, to meet the community’s demand for personalised public transport services of higher quality. We have met members of the taxi trade, unions and other stakeholders through various channels, and we have been monitoring public opinion and media comments.

Adjustments were made to the preliminary proposals put forward last June, to address the concerns of the taxi trade on the one hand, and to better meet passengers’ demand for a more efficient and higher-quality “online car hailing” service on the other hand.

The 600 franchised taxis to be introduced represent only about 3 per cent of the 18,000-odd taxis in Hong Kong. Hence, they should not be seen as a threat to the survival of ordinary taxis.

Their role is to bridge the gap in the existing taxi market and respond to a very clear demand for new choice. With differentials in fare levels as well as operating and service features (at least half of the taxis in the new fleets are required to have wheelchair access), the move will help define two complementary taxi sectors. As an international city, Hong Kong can accommodate two types of taxis to meet diversified demand, just like, for example, Singapore and Tokyo.

In response to the concern of some trade members about an unrestrained number of franchised taxis in future, the government has now proposed to stipulate a statutory cap on the number of franchised taxis at 600. Any future adjustment of the cap will require a legislative amendment.

Having regard to the views of the taxi trade, the government may consider relaxing the proposed mandatory tendering requirement to have a formal employer-employee relationship between the franchisee and the drivers.

Yet, we still consider an employer-employee relationship conducive to providing employment stability for drivers and attracting new blood to the trade. Hence, tenderers’ specific proposals for monitoring the service quality of drivers, as well as their reward and penalty system, will be an essential criterion for assessment.

To address the concern that existing taxi operators may be excluded from participating in the franchised taxi market, the government now proposes to give a higher score to tenderers with experience in operating taxi and other public transport services in Hong Kong, provided they will operate the new service under the franchise model. We further propose that operators be required to pay a franchise fee.

Some worry that the launch of franchised taxis may aggravate traffic congestion.

Looking at it from a different perspective, the target clientele of franchised taxis will include some private car commuters; hence franchised taxis may actually help reduce the number of private cars on the road.

In response to the taxi trade’s concern about the shortage of drivers, we consider that appropriate facilitating measures (including proper driver training and more stable and better-protected employment arrangements) will help attract new blood to the trade.

The government is reviewing the existing requirement that applicants for driving licences of commercial vehicles (including taxis) must have held a valid licence for driving a private car or light goods vehicle for at least three years.

Franchised taxis are a new choice for passengers who need a premium service, while existing taxis, with their lower fares, will continue to provide the bulk of the taxi service for the general public.

As such, the government will certainly not abandon the existing 18,000 or so taxis. We will continue to work closely with the trade to explore how to improve the existing taxi service and formulate proactive measures.

In the course of studying the launch of franchised taxis, the government has listened to the views of the whole community, not just those of the taxi trade. We are not working behind closed doors. The public demands more choices and reforms. We have to think out of the box and act responsibly.

Professor Anthony Cheung Bing-leung is Hong Kong’s secretary for transport and housing